Do Not Exceed What Is Written

Text: 1 Corinthians 4:6

Paul had to address several problems in his first letter to Corinth. One had to do with them elevating men and regarding them as more important than they were. He used himself and Apollos as an example to teach them “not to exceed what is written.” His warning to them was not to go beyond the limits of what God’s word allows. This principle is found throughout the letter. This lesson will consider some things that Paul addressed in this letter in order to teach us – or remind us – not to exceed what is written and go beyond the boundaries of God’s word.

Men (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

  • Paul made an appeal for unity (1:10), but there was division in Corinth (1:11) – unity comes as we “speak the same thing” (1:10, KJV), but they were divided because they were following men (1:12)
  • Remember that these men are just servants (3:4-5) – follow them as they follow Christ (11:1); do not follow them because of their personality, influence, preaching style, etc.
  • We are to be disciples (followers) of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20) – Why? (1:13) … Christ was crucified for us (2 Corinthians 5:15); we were baptized in the name of Christ and raised to a new life (Romans 6:4)
  • Do not exceed what is written – Jesus has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18-20); we must follow His word, not the teachings/practices of men

Wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

  • Paul made a contrast between the wisdom of the world and the gospel of Christ (2:1-2; 1:18-25) – the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16); it represents the “wisdom of God” (1:24)
  • For many people, the simple gospel of Christ is not enough – they go beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9), so they do not come to know God (1:21); the “god” that they serve is one of their own invention (Romans 1:21-23)
  • Why did Paul preach the way he did? … so their faith would be in God and His word (2:5) – man’s wisdom leads to destruction (Proverbs 14:12); God’s word leads to eternal life (John 6:68)
  • Do not exceed what is written and pursue worldly wisdom (1:19)

Doctrine (1 Corinthians 4:17)

  • Paul told the brethren that he was sending Timothy to them – he would confirm Paul’s message (“he will remind you of my ways“); the message was consistent with what he taught everywhere (“just as I teach…in every church“)
  • Jesus’ message is meant for the whole world (Mark 16:15) – same standard for all (Acts 10:34-35); wherever we are, we must preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2) and hold fast the pattern (2 Timothy 1:13)
  • Paul was not at liberty to change the message based upon where he was – certain teachings may need to be emphasized more in certain places and specific issues addressed, but the teaching was the same; the whole counsel of God must be taught (Acts 20:27)
  • Do not exceed what is written and think the message can be changed to fit the church where we are

Tolerance (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 11)

  • Paul addressed a report of immorality that existed in Corinth (5:1-2) – their attitude was like many today, tolerance and arrogance over how tolerant they were; their attitude should have been one of mourning (5:2) and not associating with the brother in sin (5:11)
  • Sin is to be mourned, not celebrated – sin leads to death (Romans 6:23); tolerating sin does nothing to help the sinner (James 5:19-20; Revelation 3:19); too many call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)
  • God cannot have fellowship with one in darkness (1 John 1:5-6) – we should not either (5:2, 11; Ephesians 5:11)
  • Do not exceed what is written and try to be more tolerant than God

Liberty (1 Corinthians 8:4-9)

  • Paul discussed liberty as it related to eating of meats sacrificed to idols – idols are nothing (8:4); therefore, with this knowledge, we can eat the food without sin (8:8); matter of liberty (8:9); but be careful because not all men understand this (8:7); our actions could embolden them to sin against their conscience (8:10; cf. Romans 14:23)
  • In God’s word, He has revealed for us what He wants us to do (1 Peter 1:22) – but some matters are of no concern to God (Romans 14:2-3); we have liberty in these matters, provided we do not bind rules that God never made (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
  • However, in exercising our liberty, we must not forget to act in love (8:1; Romans 14:15) – if the exercise of a particular liberty causes a brother to stumble, we must abstain (8:13)
  • Do not exceed what is written and exercise liberties to the harm of your brethren

Pride (1 Corinthians 10:12)

  • Paul reminded them about the failings of the Israelites (10:5-11) – they serve as an example; do not fall as they did; pride leads to one’s downfall (Proverbs 16:18)
  • We are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3)
  • Remember the warnings given in Scripture apply to each one of us individually – we can fall (2 Peter 3:17); we have fallen in the past (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:10); if we fall and do not repent, we will be lost (Hebrews 4:1, 11)
  • Do not exceed what is written and think that the warnings of Scripture do not apply to you

Worship (1 Corinthians 14:40)

  • Finally, Paul taught about doing things properly in the assembly – he emphasized the importance of edification (14:26); our assemblies are also for worship (John 4:24)
  • Edification must be done according to the word (Acts 20:32)
  • Worship must be according to the word (John 4:24; Colossians 3:17) – we cannot do what is unauthorized (instrumental music, woman preachers, observing the Lord’s Supper on Saturday, etc.)
  • Do not exceed what is written and worship in a way that is not in harmony with the New Testament


  • We can only know how to please God by what He has revealed in His word (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
  • Therefore, we must be content to remain within the bounds of Scripture (2 John 9)

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